April 1st 2014
A Luton man has received a suspended jail sentence and fine after being found guilty of operating a scam which tricked customers into paying for free antivirus software.
34 year-old Mohammed Khalid Jamil was sentenced to four months imprisonment – suspended for 12 months, and fined £5,000 after a hearing at York Crown Court. He was also ordered to pay £5,665 in compensation and £13,929 in prosecution costs.
Jamil ran Luton-based company Smart Support Guys, which operated a team of cold-callers working at call centres in India. They duped victims into allowing them access to their home computers to install anti-malware software that Microsoft actually provides free of charge, as well as removing programs to protect them from attack. The victims were informed by the fraudsters – who claimed to either work for Microsoft or be certified by the company – that their computers had a serious fault and would crash. They were tricked into paying between £35 and £150.
The scam was investigated by specialist investigators from the National Trading Standards e-crime team, working alongside police fraud experts and Trading Standards staff from Redcar and Cleveland. Trading Standards said that the firm had no links with Microsoft, and that people should not be charged for its free products.
Lord Harris, Chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, commented: "This is a landmark case, as we believe it may be the first ever successful prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft scam in the UK. It's an important turning point for UK consumers who have been plagued by this scam, or variants of it, for several years. He continued: "Many have succumbed to it, parting with significant sums of money, their computers have been compromised and their personal details have been put at risk. Now that one of the many individuals who've been operating this scam has been brought to justice, it's a stark warning to anyone else still doing it that they can be caught and will be prosecuted."